Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’
Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’
And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.’
But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God.’
We all have a view as to what makes a satisfying retirement. When I worked as a marketing director in an insurance company, common wisdom said that you had to plan ahead and start your pension investment early. The rich farmer in Jesus’ story gives a compelling account of great preparation: ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.’
Then comes the uncomfortable punchline. The Lord God intervenes and the stakes go up. He reminds the rich farmer that time belongs to him and his time is up. He says, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ Suddenly, all his retirement planning had come head-to-head with the unavoidable truth that human beings have a 100% fatality record.
Bringing the story up to date, a partner in a leading accountancy firm some years ago nosed his large yacht out of the marina. With his wife by his side and having just retired, he was looking forward to a glorious summer of sailing. Sadly, he got no further than a mile or so when a heart attack ended his retirement dream.
Jesus had been teaching crowds about the reality of the kingdom of God when he was rather rudely interrupted by a person who shouted out for him to resolve a family dispute over an inheritance. He graciously allowed the interruption, weaving it powerfully into his teaching. Jesus’ parable about the rich farmer made this point: we must be rich towards God, our creator and sustainer. Without him, we are literally nothing.
He later amplified this lesson to his close disciples, pointing out that life is so much more than food, possessions, or wealth. Many followers of Jesus have found this fact to be true, though it challenges our self-centredness. As the young missionary pioneer Jim Elliot put it before giving his life to reach an isolated people group: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.’
We don’t have to move overseas to live this out, though. We might take time to mentor a younger colleague, invite a friend for a drink, or interrupt our schedule to help a neighbour. By generously investing our time, talents, and money not in our own comfort, but in God’s mission right where we are, we can offer up a taste of heaven’s riches to those around us.
Chair, Langham Partnership UK and Ireland
What’s one way you could generously redirect some of your resources to make God’s kingdom known in the here and now? Join in the conversation in the comments below